National Security Brief: U.S. Still Skeptical Of Chemical Weapons Use In Syria

A U.S. official told the New York Times that while the Obama administration is suspicious that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against rebels in the ongoing civil war there, it so-far lacks concrete evidence of any such attacks.

The issue has once again come to the forefront after a top Israeli military intelligence official announced earlier this week that Israel believes Syria has used chemical weapons and criticized the international community for failing to act. Secretary of State John Kerry has since said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not confirm the assessment and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said his Israeli counterpart did not mention it in a recent meeting in Israel this week.

The Israeli assessment, however, builds on earlier claims from the British and the French that they too have determined that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons.

But it appears the U.S. is being more cautious, as President Obama has said that such an event would trigger a wider U.S. response, perhaps even military intervention.


“It is precisely because this is a red line that we have to establish with airtight certainty that this happened,” said the U.S. official told the Times. “The bar on the United States is higher than on anyone else, both because of our capabilities and because of our history in Iraq.”

In other news:

  • AOL Defense reports: The UN investigation of Iran’s nuclear program is stalled because the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency refuses to have its “hands and legs” bound by Iranian demands, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said.
  • USA Today reports: The former top commander in Afghanistan said he initially recommended that 13,600 U.S. troops remain in the country when the American combat role there ends after 2014, but believes the mission could still be accomplished with less.

(Photo: Secretary of State John Kerry with Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib)